What are direct integrations and how do they work?
Posted by Content
Direct integrations revolutionized the way the tourism industry operates. Making discrepancies a thing of the past and creating a smoother booking process for all the actors involved.
What are direct integrations and how do they work?
In simple terms, direct integrations are a set of behind-the-scenes technology that enables different travel systems—such as hotels, airlines, car rentals, tour operators, and online booking platforms—to seamlessly exchange information with each other in real time.
Before direct integrations, each service provider operated as an isolated island, manually updating their availability, prices, and other key information.
Booking a relatively complex trip, was a process where you’d often encountered outdated information, received delayed responses, and got more than a few "Sorry, fully booked" messages.
Direct integrations changed this landscape entirely.
Now, travel service providers can establish direct connections with each other, enabling these systems to share data swiftly and accurately. As a result, up-to-date information and instant booking confirmations are now an industry standard.
How direct integrations transformed the travel industry
Direct integrations for the tourism industry were developed in the late 90s, a time when computer technology was disrupting many industries with outdated processes.
The pre-direct integration scenario was an industry managed through phone calls and faxes, channels prone to human errors and delays. Data had to be manually entered and updated across various platforms, leading to inconsistencies in pricing and availability.
The lack of real-time communication between different systems resulted in a slow and error-prone booking process. Travel agents had to manually contact hotels, airlines, and tour operators to check availability, which often led to outdated information and tedious back-and-forth communication. This not only frustrated travelers but also made it difficult for businesses to provide accurate and timely services.
Once this solution was available, major travel agencies and large hotel chains quickly became early adopters, seeking ways to streamline their operations. These pioneers recognized the potential of integrating their reservation systems with airlines and other service providers.
The benefits of direct integrations
- Seamless data exchange
Direct integrations allow different travel systems to talk to each other in real time. Hotels, airlines, and other services can share important information instantly.
- Real-time availability and instant confirmations
The system immediately checks if a flight or hotel room it's available and gives you a confirmation right away.
- Impact on accuracy and efficiency
Real-time availability and instant confirmations not only save time but also reduce the chances of mistakes.
- Better inventory management
Hotels and airlines can see exactly how many rooms or seats are available for a particular date and adjust their offers accordingly. This helps them maximize their bookings without overbooking or leaving potential customers disappointed.
- Preventing overbooking
By having real-time data on available inventory, hotels, and airlines can avoid selling more rooms or seats than they have; a common practice before the advent of this solution.
- Cons of direct integrations
While direct integrations have proven to be a game-changer for the tourism industry, they might not be the most feasible option for travel.
Developing your own direct integrations comes with a set of challenges that shouldn’t be underestimated.
- Technical complexity
Setting up direct integrations can be quite complex, requiring a certain level of technical expertise. It involves understanding different APIs, protocols, and data formats used by various systems in the travel industry. Most of the big players have developed their own systems, resulting in needing to develop several custom connections.
For small and medium-sized companies without a dedicated IT team, this complexity can be overwhelming. And even with an in-house IT department, these developments are quite time consuming and provide plenty of challenges.
- Initial investment and ongoing maintenance
Developing and implementing direct integrations require a significant initial investment. Companies need to allocate resources for hiring skilled developers or outsourcing the integration process. Additionally, their maintenance will also require continuous spending of financial and technical resources.
Integrating different systems can be quite a puzzle to solve. Each system might use different technologies, protocols, and data formats, making it challenging to ensure compatibility. Making sure that data from one system is correctly interpreted and utilized by another is essential.
If a connection is not scalable, it can result in failures when demand increases, which can lead to lost opportunities and revenue.
- Time to market
Beyond technical aspects, working with inadequate technology can also have a huge impact on business operations. The time invested in developing and maintaining direct connections can result in delays in being available in a market, and this can result in a significant opportunity cost in a such fast-evolving industry as tourism.
- Updates and adjustments
Changes made by third-party systems happen regularly. As technology evolves and updated systems, maintaining functional direct integrations requires continuous attention. This process too can be time-intensive and costly, the more integrations, the more time-consuming this process is.
- Data privacy
Working with direct integrations means sharing sensitive data between different systems. While APIs are designed to be secure, there is always a risk of data breaches or unauthorized access.
- The hidden costs of direct integrations
Custom development for each supplier (not only development but also analysis, design, testing, etc.); ongoing maintenance, and infrastructure are some of the most relevant expenses that companies usually overlook when deciding on direct integration.
Travel companies handle massive amounts of personal and financial data from their customers. When integrating systems, it’s key to ensure that all data transfers are encrypted and protected. Implementing the necessary security measures to safeguard customer information demands significant investment and expertise in data protection, which smaller companies may struggle to provide.
Considering these challenges, companies of any size should carefully weigh their options and explore alternative solutions that offer similar benefits without the costs and complexities of direct integrations. Fortunately, there are plenty of alternatives available that these companies can take advantage of.
- Alternatives to direct integrations
After 30 years in the market, it’s completely understandable that direct integrations may not be the first option for companies today. The landscape when they were created was completely different. In today’s ecosystem of travel industry, businesses are much different from those operating in the early 90s.
Companies today demand flexibility. They’re built with extremely lean teams and do not want to make long-term technological commitments because technology itself is advancing at a much faster pace in this era.
APIs and connectivity have greatly evolved during these years, making alternative solutions possible. Solutions that can provide the benefits of direct integrations without the need for extensive resources and technical expertise.
- Centralized travel platforms
Centralized travel platforms are online platforms that act as intermediaries between various travel service providers and customers. These platforms aggregate data and services from different airlines, hotels, car rental companies, tour operators, and other travel-related businesses, offering a unified booking interface to travelers.
Essentially, they create a one-stop shop where customers can access and book one, several, or all the components of their trips without the need to visit multiple websites or apps.
- API Marketplaces
As a solution that has recently emerged as another viable alternative to direct integrations, especially for businesses that seek pre-built integrations for various tourism services, API marketplaces offer a collection of APIs from different service providers, making it easier for businesses to integrate multiple travel services into their systems without starting from scratch.
These marketplaces have a selection of APIs available. Once selected, the APIs provide the necessary data and functionalities so the IT team can proceed to integrate them into the business's existing systems.
TravelgateX it’s a great alternative to direct integrations for several reasons:
Simplified integration process
As we’ve seen, direct integrations can be complex and time-consuming, requiring technical expertise and significant investment. TravelgateX offers a straightforward integration process through its set of APIs, removing the need for businesses to develop custom integrations from scratch.
Flexibility and scalability
Allowing businesses to choose the specific travel services they want to integrate, providing flexibility and scalability to suit their unique needs and requirements.
Developing and maintaining direct integrations can be expensive. TravelgateX's API-based approach reduces integration costs, enabling businesses to access a wide range of travel services at a fraction of the expense required for individual integrations.
Extensive and diverse travel inventory
TravelgateX acts as a centralized marketplace with a vast array of travel inventory from multiple providers worldwide. This allows businesses to access a diverse range of travel products, including flights, hotels, car rentals, and activities, without the need to negotiate and integrate with each provider separately.
Real-time data and updates
Through TravelgateX's APIs, businesses can access real-time availability, rates, and inventory for travel services. Essential for customers to receive accurate and up-to-date information when making reservations, avoiding issues that may arise from outdated data.
Optimization and data analysis
Travelgate offers traffic optimization through artificial intelligence, as well as real-time traffic viewers and tracking of requests and responses. These functionalities, and other cutting-edge developments that are deployed regularly, would be complex and expensive to implement in a direct integration.
Technical support and maintenance
Its technical support and maintenance for its APIs reduce the burden on businesses to handle ongoing updates and adjustments. Enabling them to focus on their core operations without worrying about the technical aspects of integrations.
Conclusion: Embrace innovation
Direct integrations once were a cutting-edge solution that revolutionized the tourism industry by bringing real-time data exchange and enhancing the customer experience. However, as we've analyzed, the complexities and costs associated with direct integrations can present challenges, for businesses of any size.
In recent years, tourism has been one of the industries that have undergone the greatest technological advances, both due to the extreme popularization of the B2C sector and the explosion of the B2B business.
As the industry keeps moving forward, the key to success lies in embracing innovation and adopting solutions that align with the unique needs and resources of each business. Whether it's through centralized travel platforms, API marketplaces, or a combination of both, data exchange and collaborative partnerships will continue to shape the travel experience for travelers and businesses alike.
In this ever-evolving landscape, the key is to remain agile, stay up-to-date about the latest technological advancements, and choose integration solutions that empower businesses to offer exceptional travel experiences to their customers.
Companies in the travel industry need a well-thought-out, multi-faceted strategy to be profitable in today's business climate. Investment in the right technology and connectivity, coupled with a focus on customer experience, data analytics, sustainability, and risk management, can provide a solid foundation for long-term success.